Of all the Guilds of Ravnica cards previewed, Pelt Collector is a card that jumped off the page for me, and there are multiple reasons why I believe it can make a significant impact on Standard. First of all, cheap creatures are at a premium. We know, that the amount of strong one-drops in a format like Standard is always going to be quite limited. There are other colors that struggle to find two one-drops that are even close to good enough for Standard play.
In green, we already know about Llanowar Elves, and with Bomat Courier rotating out Llanowar Elves becomes the clear frontrunner for the top one-mana creature in the format. We have seen Llanowar Elves present in pretty much every single green deck that has done well since it has been legal. Getting on the board early is extremely important for decks trying to win with aggression. Now that Pelt Collector is around, these decks should be more consistent, with their early plays.
Pelt Collector will be very good, though many players have been saying it is a worse version of Experiment One. The first thing players often do when looking at new cards is compare them to ones they have seen before. Experiment One has many similarities to Pelt Collector, but to be clear both cards are very good. We are comparing Pelt Collector to one of the top one mana-green creatures of all time that isn't a mana accelerant.
Experiment One saw play when it was legal in Standard, and has seen a good amount of usage in Modern as well. There can be arguments made both ways to which of the two is actually "better," and this is going to be contextual. One can regenerate itself, which we know can be useful but comes at a real cost in removing two counters from your creature. More often than not, regenerating Experiment One won't come up during a game you cast it.
When we look at Pelt Collector, there are two major upsides compared to Experiment One. The first is that it can gain trample. Getting three counters on Pelt Collector won't happen until at least turn four most of the time, but the fact is that when it is a large creature is when you care about it having trample. When you look at it from this perspective then the fact that it needs to have three counters on it to gain trample isn't a big cost. Decks that include Pelt Collector will have the ability to grow it to at least a four-power threat.
The other major upside on Pelt Collector is that it can get bigger from a creature dying. This is a big deal, especially when you consider that there are Guilds of Ravnica cards that enable you to sacrifice creatures. Whether it is the opponent pointing a removal spell at one of your creatures, a trade in combat or intentionally sacrificing a creature, there are plenty of ways to help Pelt Collector grow. This ability also means you don't have to play a deck with all creatures in it for Pelt Collector to be good, if your spells are cards like Vraska, Golgari Queen then they can work well alongside Pelt Collector.
This is a situation where I believe Pelt Collector would end up being better than Experiment One, but also sometimes a reprint can be great depending on the format it exists in. There were previous Standard formats where Llanowar Elves didn't see much play, and now look at it! Once we factor in the smaller card pool in Standard, there are a lot of signs that point to Pelt Collector being a format staple. One of the only major negatives is that it doesn't grow from other 1/1 creatures like Llanowar Elves, so you don't want it in a token deck, for instance.
The fact is that moving into the new Standard format, one of the top decks that has survived is the Green Stompy deck, and this could be a good place for Pelt Collector. With Steel Leaf Champion as one of the signature creatures in the deck, there is plenty of beef to grow your Collector. Most of the current versions splash either blue or black. However, it is unclear that moving forward there will be a strong enough incentive to splash an additional color. Let's look at what this deck if it's straight green.
Now this is a mono-green beatdown deck. It utilizes some cards we have seen before and a few from Guilds of Ravnica as well. Some of the better two-mana threats this deck had access to previously are leaving the format, so we have to find new ones to take their place. Thorn Lieutenant is a card we have seen in and out of Stompy lists over the past couple months, but with the rotation I expect it to be an easy inclusion moving forward since Scrapheap Scrounger, Heart of Kiran and Servant of the Conduit are no longer options.
Kraul Harpooner is a an option to fill the gap in the curve. The base line power and toughness stats here are important. The fact it has reach and becomes really good if the opponent has a flying creature in play is a nice upside. It is unclear exactly how many flying creatures will see play moving forward, though Nicol Bolas, the Ravager likely will be a card Grixis decks will want to have access to, and Rekindling Phoenix is one of the top red creatures sticking around. Kraul Harpooner is a sleeper that could have an important role to fill.
The other option we have sometimes seen in this deck that I have included two copies of is Merfolk Branchwalker. Explore is a great way to hit future land drops, which is quite important. It could be that Merfolk Branchwalker should actually be a four-of in the deck, but I'm trying two for now. This deck is almost exclusively creatures, which means you want to try to curve out as often as possible.
Then we have the larger threats, with Steel Leaf Champion being the most obvious one. Thrashing Brontodon is a card I have in the list, though how good it is will depend on how many artifacts and enchantments end up seeing play, as many of them have rotated out. The great thing about the creature base is that even if the opponent is able to answer your first couple plays, we also have access to hexproof threats.
Vine Mare is the one we are used to seeing, but Nullhide Ferox may actually end up being the stronger card. It is a conditional hexproof threat, as the opponent can force it to lose its abilities, but the additional mana investment to do that is important. This creature hits hard, and since there are only two copies of Prey Upon for noncreature spells in the deck, not being able to cast noncreature spells isn't a big drawback. This is exactly the sort of deck that wants Nullhide Ferox.
The other really nice part about Nullhide Ferox is the potential to cheat it into play. You might think this is something that will never come up, but that isn't the case. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is very bad against this card, as if you ever are forced to discard a card and get to cheat Nullhide Ferox into play it is a huge blowout that will usually win the game. The card has gotten mixed reviews so far, but the potential is certainly there. Big green creatures are here to stay.
With all the fatties, it makes sense to have some amount of Ghalta, Primal Hunger as well. Against other green decks Ghalta is the ultimate trump card, and you should almost always be able to get Ghalta into play by turn four or five. The deck is full of creatures, so even if the opponent kills one or two there should be enough power and toughness to get Ghalta, Primal Hunger into play. There really is no shortage of huge creatures to grow the Pelt Collector here.
With that said, we still have just scratched the surface as far as potential homes for Pelt Collector. This is a card that could fit well into Selesnya or Golgari decks quite nicely. The question is how strong those color pairs end up being in Standard. You do want to be base green, though, as this is a card that is going to be best if you are able to play it on the first turn of the game.
Beyond Standard, we certainly could see Pelt Collector make a splash in Modern. There can be an argument made for it being better than Experiment One, and as that card already sees play I'm sure Pelt Collector will see some as well. Unfortunately, Winding Constrictor is rotating out, as that card would be way too busted with all the counter synergies in Guilds of Ravnica.
Even without growing Pelt Collector by playing creatures, there are other options for making it a large creature. The mentor ability is a great way to make small creatures much bigger. It's possible we see mentor put to good use alongside some removal or pump spells to help make sure your creatures can attack through what the opponent has. I'm looking forward to seeing all the decks Pelt Collector can fit into, as any aggressive green deck should at least seriously consider including it in Standard.
Thanks for reading,